Three turnovers in the fourth quarter propelled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 20-10 victory against the New Orleans Saints in a frustrating game for Tom Brady.

The seven-time Super Bowl champion angrily tossed a tablet on the sidelines as both offences struggled to get going, with just a field goal apiece at the end of the third quarter.

A Jamel Dean interception proved to be the turning point though, setting up Brady for an 11-play drive, which was capped off by a 28-yard pass to Breshad Perriman.

Dean struck again in the following drive for the Saints, intercepting Jameis Winston in back-to-back possessions for the Saints and putting the Buccaneers in a solid position on the opposition 29-yard line.

Brady was unable to capitalise, the Buccaneers instead settling on a field goal to extend their lead. The visitors would hold firm despite Michael Thomas giving the Saints hope with a seven-yard touchdown reception.

Having suffered four consecutive regular season losses to the Saints since joining the Buccaneers, Brady's run came to an end, but it was not a vintage performance for the veteran, who completed 18 of 34 attempts for a total of 190 yards.

Tagovailoa shines in comeback victory

Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens had a fine start against the Miami Dolphins, Devin Duvernay taking the opening kick-off for a 103-yard return and Jackson having three touchdown passes in the first half, as well as a 79-yard rushing touchdown.

When Jackson completed a 75-yard touchdown pass to Rashod Bateman, he became the first quarterback in NFL history to have 75-yard passing and rushing touchdowns in the same game.

Trailing by 21 points heading into the fourth quarter, Tua Tagovailoa threw four touchdown passes to secure a remarkable 42-38 comeback victory – finishing the game with six touchdown passes and 469 yards, completing 36 of 50 attempts.

Jets stun Browns with huge comeback

Victory for the Cleveland Browns at home against the New Yorks Jets would have secured a 2-0 record to start a season for the first time since 1993, and Kevin Stefanski's side looked to be set for a historic win, leading by two scores heading into the final stages.

Nick Chubb had starred with three touchdowns, totalling 87 yards from 17 carries, putting the Browns on the brink, but the Jets responded valiantly to score two touchdowns inside the two-minute warning.

Joe Flacco combined with Corey Davis for a 66-yard touchdown, before the Jets then recovered an onside kick and pulled ahead through a Garrett Wilson touchdown catch to win 31-30.

The New England Patriots are hoping to avoid starting the season 0-2 when they visit the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, and Bill Belichick's team could be in line for a piece of unwanted history should they fail to perform against their AFC rivals.

New England suffered a 20-7 loss the Miami Dolphins in Week 1, Mac Jones and the offense struggling to get anything going as the Patriots' quarterback battled back spasms.

Should they lose by double digits again at Acrisure Stadium, it would mark the first time they have started a season with double-digit losses since losing three straight by that margin to begin the 1969 season.

The bad news for New England is that since Mike Tomlin became Steelers head coach in 2007, nine of the 10 games between Pittsburgh and the Patriots have been decided by at least a touchdown, with the average margin of victory being 14.7 points.

The good news? The Patriots have won seven of those matchups.

Yet the Patriots are hardly in an ideal situation to continue their dominance over the Steelers.

Jones has battled illness this week but is set to play in Pittsburgh. Yet, going against a defense that picked off Joe Burrow four times in the Steelers' season-opening win over the Cincinnati Bengals – their 25th overtime victory since the extra period was implemented in 1974, the third-most in the NFL – he picked a particularly bad week to miss practice time.

The Steelers are without star edge rusher T.J. Watt because of the torn pectoral muscle he suffered in Week 1 but avoiding leaving Pittsburgh having done something no Patriots team has done for 53 years promises to be a difficult challenge for Jones and New England.

What a first week of the NFL season that was.

So much drama, so many late twists, and it's almost time to do it all over again as Week 2 looms on the horizon.

Sunday sees Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looking to follow up their opening win against the Dallas Cowboys when they head to New Orleans, the Los Angeles Rams will aim to get on the board when they host the Atlanta Falcons, while Russell Wilson's first home game for the Denver Broncos sees them welcome the Houston Texans.

With all that and more, Stats Perform has used Opta data to preview the weekend's action in the NFL.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) @ New Orleans Saints (1-0)

The Saints have won their last seven regular-season games against the Buccaneers, matching the longest previous winning streak by either team in this rivalry, a run of seven consecutive wins by New Orleans from 2011 to 2014. Tampa Bay did beat the Saints in a Divisional Playoff game following the 2020 season.

Tampa Bay had one interception (by Antoine Winfield Junior) in their season-opening win at Dallas. The Bucs were 11-0 last season in games in which they intercepted at least one pass. The Green Bay Packers (also 11-0) were the only other NFL team to go unbeaten last season in games in which they recorded one or more interceptions.

New Orleans won their season opener in Atlanta, 27-26, after trailing 26-10 in the fourth quarter. It was the first time in franchise history that the Saints won a game in which they trailed by 16 or more points in the fourth quarter, and only the third time they won a game in which they were behind by 16 or more points in the second half.

Tom Brady and the Bucs lost their last game against the Saints, 9-0 (Week 15 last season). That is one of only three times that Brady's team has been shut out in his 317 regular-season and 47 postseason starts in the NFL. The other shutouts were in 2003 (Patriots at Buffalo, 31-0 in Week 1) and 2014 (Patriots at Miami, 21-0 in Week 14).

Atlanta Falcons (0-1) @ Los Angeles Rams (0-1)

Including their original stint in California and time in St. Louis, the Rams are 28-8-2 (.778) at home against their former NFC West rival, Atlanta Falcons. That is the best home record of any franchise against a single opponent (minimum of 30 games) in NFL history.

Cordarrelle Patterson rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown in Atlanta's season opener. At 31 years old, Patterson is the second-oldest player in team history to have 100+ rushing yards and a touchdown run in a game, behind only Warrick Dunn, who had two such games.

The Rams started the season with a 31-10 loss to the Bills, the largest home loss in a season opener ever by a defending Super Bowl champion. The team has not started a season at 0-2 since 2011 when they were in St. Louis and have not lost their first two games as the Los Angeles Rams since 1987.

Cooper Kupp tied a career high with 13 catches in the opener against Buffalo. Including playoffs, Kupp has at least five receptions in each of the Rams' last 22 games. Only Antonio Brown has a longer such streak of team games with five or more catches in the Super Bowl era (37).

Houston Texans (0-0-1) @ Denver Broncos (0-1)

The Texans opened their season with a 20-20 tie against the Indianapolis Colts, despite being outgained by 218 yards in the game. Prior to Houston on Sunday, the last team to tie a game while having 200+ yards less than their opponent was the Packers against the Broncos in 1987.

In his first game with the Texans, O.J. Howard scored touchdowns on each of his two receptions. Howard joins Jaelen Strong as the only players to ever have two TD catches in their team debut for Houston.

Denver committed 12 penalties in their 17-16 loss to the Seahawks on Monday. It was the most penalties the Broncos have ever committed in a season opener, surpassing the 11 penalties they had to kick off the 1970 season against the Bills.

Russell Wilson threw for 340 yards against the Seahawks in his Denver debut. It was the most passing yards by a Broncos QB on their debut with the team and Wilson's 12th career game with 340+ passing yards (his teams are 5-7 in those games).

Elsewhere...

The New England Patriots travel to the Pittsburgh Steelers after suffering a 20-7 loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 1, and have not started a season with consecutive double-digit losses since losing three straight games by such a margin to begin the 1969 campaign.

Baltimore's Lamar Jackson threw for three touchdowns against the New York Jets after throwing three or more TDs just twice all of last season. Before they host the Dolphins, it is notable that, in his career, the Ravens are 13-1 when Jackson has three or more pass TDs, the second-best team record among active players behind Josh Allen at 14-1 (minimum 10 such games).

Starting with their 2013 NFC Championship game success over the 49ers, the Seattle Seahawks are 15-2 in their last 17 games against San Francisco, which includes season sweeps in 2020 and 2021. The 15 wins since January 2014 are tied with the Patriots (vs. Jets) for the most by an NFL team against a single opponent in that span (including playoffs).

The Arizona Cardinals will need to watch Davante Adams, who had 10 catches for 141 yards on 17 targets in his Las Vegas Raiders debut. That is the most targets for any player in their first career game with the Raiders in the past 30 seasons. The only other with player with 15+ targets in their Raiders debut over that span is Randy Moss in 2005 (15).

The Pittsburgh Steelers announced on Thursday they have placed T.J. Watt on injured reserve with a reported torn pectoral muscle the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year sustained in the season opener.

Watt, who tied an NFL season record with 22.5 sacks in 2021, will miss a minimum of four games, and NFL.com has reported the standout edge rusher is expected to be sidelined for six weeks.

That timeline is still considered a positive development, as the Steelers initially feared Watt would require surgery after incurring the injury in the fourth quarter of last Sunday's 23-20 overtime win at defending AFC champion Cincinnati.

A surgical procedure would have kept Watt out for most, if not all of this season.

"We're probably in a lot better place than we were after the game and usually that's the case," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday when asked about Watt's injury.

Pittsburgh's defence will still be challenged to replace Watt, who joined Hall of Famer Reggie White as the only players in NFL history to record 13 or more sacks in four consecutive seasons with his brilliant 2021 campaign (though sacks did not become an official league statistic until 1982).

The three-time All-Pro's 72 sacks are the third most of any player through his first five NFL seasons, trailing only White and Watt's older brother, J.J.

"Those guys are not going to be T.J.," Tomlin said of Malik Reed and Jamir Jones, the two players likely to fill Watt's role until his return. "It's not realistic to think that they're going to be T.J. But we expect them to be varsity."

Reed, acquired from Denver just prior to the start of the season, did produce eight sacks while starting 13 games for the Broncos in 2020.

"Malik is a 700-plus snap defender the last two years. His resume speaks for itself," Tomlin remarked. "That's why we went out acquiring him. He's a very, very credible NFL player."

The Steelers will also rely heavily on fellow outside linebacker Alex Highsmith, who posted a career-high three sacks and forced a fumble against the Bengals.

Pittsburgh led the NFL with 55 sacks in 2021 and recorded seven in their Week 1 win, along with four interceptions of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.

Patrick Mahomes and Saquon Barkley were recognised as the respective AFC and NFC Offensive Player of the Week after flying starts to the new NFL season.

Mahomes led the Kansas City Chiefs to a dominant 44-21 Week 1 win at the Arizona Cardinals.

The 2018 MVP leads the league in passing touchdowns (five), passing yards (360) and quarterback rating (144.2) at this early stage.

Only Joe Burrow matched Mahomes' 22 passes for first downs, while he did not throw an interception and was not sacked, making him an obvious choice as the standout player in the AFC.

Minkah Fitzpatrick, who played a vital role in the Pittsburgh Steelers' wild win over Burrow's Cincinnati Bengals, is the AFC Defensive Player of the Year.

The Steelers safety caught a pick-six from Burrow's first pass of the game and later, crucially, blocked Evan McPherson's PAT to take the game to overtime.

Cade York was more accurate as time expired in the Cleveland Browns' dramatic victory over the Carolina Panthers, kicking the winning field goal to earn AFC Special Teams Player of the Week recognition.

In the NFC, New York Giants running back Barkley was the standout player on offense, stealing the show against a Tennessee Titans team featuring two-time rushing yards and rushing TDs leader Derrick Henry.

Barkley has the most rushing yards at this early stage with 164 and a score. His 68-yard run in the drive that culminated in his TD was the longest carry of the week.

The fifth-year superstar, who has been hampered by injuries since an outstanding rookie season, also caught a Daniel Jones pass for the decisive two-point conversion in a 21-20 Giants victory.

Also honoured in the NFC were debutant Seattle Seahawks linebacker Uchenna Nwosu and Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Zech McPhearson.

Nwosu sacked the Denver Broncos' former Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson and forced a fumble from Melvin Gordon at the one-yard line, while McPhearson fielded the Detroit Lions' attempted onside kick to set up a Boston Scott touchdown in an Eagles win.

T.J. Watt could return to action sooner than expected after the Pittsburgh Steelers refused to put a timescale on his absence beyond the Week 2 clash with the New England Patriots.

The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year winner suffered a torn pectoral in the fourth quarter of a wild 23-20 overtime opening victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

According to NFL Network' Ian Rapoport, Watt tore a muscle but not the tendon, which could mean his absence is as short as six weeks. There had been concerns Watt's season could be over already.

The prospect of Watt avoiding surgery will be welcome in Pittsburgh, where Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin also pointed to positive news regarding the pass rusher.

Tomlin has yet to add Watt to the injured reserve list and said: "We're not in hurry to gather information too quickly. We will see how his body responds, we'll get second and third opinions and then at the end of the week or at some point we will do what's appropriate."

He added: "I can definitively say that T.J. won't play this week, but I won't make any commitments beyond that."

The clash with the Patriots takes place on Sunday, by which time the picture regarding Watt's likely return should be clear.

Watt shared an image on social media on Tuesday of Arnold Schwarzenegger's famous "I'll be back" catchphrase, from the Terminator movie. That has been interpreted as the 27-year-old suggesting his season is not over.

Tomlin further explained Pittsburgh's stance, adding: "Let me say this, we're probably in a lot better place than we were after the game and usually that's the case.

"That's why I don't always say too much after the game, even though there might be speculation out there."

Mac Jones could return to action as soon as Week 2 despite suffering with a back injury after the New England Patriots' season-opening defeat to the Miami Dolphins.

On a day to forget for the Patriots, Jones had 21-of-30 passing for 213 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

That was only enough to see New England beaten 20-7, their fourth straight defeat to the Dolphins.

Worse was to come with news second-year quarterback Jones required a scan on a back problem, yet Monday brought more positive reporting.

The X-ray was negative, according to widespread reports, while NFL Network suggested Jones had been dealing with back spasms rather than an injury.

Jones was certainly optimistic he would be fit to face the Pittsburgh Steelers this week as he spoke with reporters.

"I definitely feel better," he said. "I want to be ready to play against Pittsburgh. I feel good.

"I wasn't feeling too hot after the game. I definitely feel a lot better. I don't expect any issues. Everything's good."

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor has explained the reasoning behind two apparent gaffes that occurred during Sunday's overtime defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Last season's defeated Super Bowl side had a rollercoaster ride in Week 1 of the new season, quarterback Joe Burrow having five turnovers – four of which came before half-time.

It was, however, two questionable decisions from the sideline that ultimately paved the way for the Steelers' dramatic win, one of which saw Taylor's special teams unit head out with a running clock to punt the ball early.

That gave Pittsburgh enough time to get into field goal range and win it, with questions asked as to why the Bengals did not run the clock all the way down – and Taylor reasoned it was due to a change in long-snapper, after Clark Harris suffered an early injury and was ruled out.

"New operation. We snapped there with 13 seconds, I understand that, trust me, we'd rather do something different," he said after the game.

"But just trying to make sure the operation ran smoothly, it turned out that we sacrificed some seconds just to make sure that we were all on the same page there."

The Bengals may have been able to avoid overtime entirely had the team elected to challenge the play that saw Ja'Marr Chase score an apparent touchdown that was not caught by the officials, Taylor again admitting mistakes were made.

"Part of it was that that's the hardest place for us to see in the entire field is that spot. I didn't think there was a chance there was a touchdown there initially. So, we got on the ball to run it in quickly," he added.

"It's hard with all the craziness in that moment, all the communication to get that 'Stop, stop. Let's evaluate this.'

"We just couldn't get it done fast enough by the time we'd seen a replay and realised 'Oh shoot, he might have gotten in there.' We've just got to learn from those.

"It's a fine line — when you get the ball on the inch, you just want to punch it in real quick. In hindsight, maybe he was in and we could have given ourselves a chance."

The Bengals travel to Dallas in Week 2 to face a Cowboys side set to be without quarterback Dak Prescott due to injury.

T.J. Watt is being assessed by the Pittsburgh Steelers as reports suggest the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year has suffered a torn pectoral.

Watt left the game in the fourth quarter of the Steelers' wild 23-20 overtime win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1.

The Pittsburgh pass-rusher had played a key role in stifling Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, who finished with five turnovers – four interceptions and a lost fumble.

Watt dominated the game with six tackles, three tackles-for-loss, an interception and a sack, but the Steelers now fear he faces an extended period on the sideline.

"I'm appreciative of the effort – it wasn't without cost," said coach Mike Tomlin afterwards, revealing Watt was "being evaluated with an upper body injury".

Running back Najee Harris was also being evaluated having exited the game with a foot injury.

The worst game of Joe Burrow's NFL career almost turned into a memorable Week 1 win for the Cincinnati Bengals, who instead blew their chance for an overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Bengals went down 23-20 to the Steelers after missing kicks at the end of regulation and in the additional period that would have secured a winning start.

Instead, Chris Boswell kicked the game-winning field goal for the Steelers in the final seconds of overtime.

Burrow had put the Bengals in position to succeed despite his dismal start, looking nothing like the 2021 Comeback Player of the Year who led Cincinnati to the Super Bowl.

The quarterback had four turnovers before half-time – a career high for an entire game – including a pick-six for Minkah Fitzpatrick from his very first pass.

Burrow finished with four interceptions, a lost fumble and seven sacks, but he also threw two touchdown passes, including one for Ja'Marr Chase that appeared to set up a stunning Bengals win.

However, Fitzpatrick blocked Evan McPherson's PAT, and McPherson missed his target again in overtime.

Boswell similarly squandered a chance to win the game, hitting the left post, but he made amends just as it looked as though the NFL would see two ties in the same week for the first time since Week 2 in 1973, with the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts also tied 20-20.

Browns deny Baker's Panthers

The Bengals were the only team not to win in the AFC North – a division that had it all on Sunday. While Lamar Jackson guided the Baltimore Ravens to victory over the New York Jets, the Cleveland Browns celebrated their first Week 1 win since 2004 as former QB Baker Mayfield saw his Carolina Panthers beaten 24-23 by a late field goal.

The Miami Dolphins' 20-7 win over AFC East rivals the Patriots was far more straightforward, with Tua Tagovailoa becoming the first QB to remain unbeaten against Bill Belichick in the regular season having started at least four games against New England.

49ers flounder at sodden Soldier Field

Miserable conditions in Chicago hampered the San Francisco 49ers as they suffered a shock 19-10 loss to the Bears, with Trey Lance's miserable 13-of-28 passing including an awful fourth-quarter interception for a quarterback rating of just 50.3.

Elsewhere in the NFC, Jalen Hurts also did not throw a single touchdown pass in the Philadelphia Eagles' 38-35 victory over the Detroit Lions – he contributed one of four rushing scores – but the QB connected with A.J. Brown for 155 yards on 10 catches. Marquee offseason trade signing Brown had 128 receiving yards before half-time, the most in the first half of a team debut by any non-rookie since at least 1991.

The first week of the 2022 NFL season is here, with all the possibilities a new campaign brings.

Things kicked off on Thursday with the Buffalo Bills beating the Los Angeles Rams 31-10 thanks to a starring role from quarterback Josh Allen, who threw three touchdowns against the defending champions.

There are even more enticing games to look forward to over the weekend, with last season's Super Bowl runners up the Cincinnati Bengals hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers, Patrick Mahomes and the much-fancied Kansas City Chiefs facing Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals, and it will be Aaron Rodgers v Kirk Cousins as the Green Bay Packers go to the Minnesota Vikings.

Stats Perform dives head first into Opta data to preview those games and more of the opening weekend of NFL action.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals have won their last three games against the Steelers (27-17 in December 2020, 24-10 and 41-10 last season). It is the Bengals' longest winning streak versus the Steelers since they won six consecutive games from 1988 through 1990.

Mitch Trubisky will be the first quarterback other than Ben Roethlisberger to start a season opener for the Steelers since Dennis Dixon in 2010 (Roethlisberger was suspended). Trubisky is 1-2 in season openers, losing to the Packers twice and beating the Detroit Lions (all when he was with the Chicago Bears).

The Bengals played a league-high seven games decided by exactly three points during the 2021 regular season (won three, lost four), the highest single-season total by an NFL team since the 2012 Steelers (seven). Three of Cincinnati's four postseason games were also decided by exactly three points, including the 23-20 Super Bowl loss to the Rams.

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow completed 67 of 85 passes for 971 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions over his final two games in the 2021 regular season (Week 16 against the Ravens, Week 17 against the Chiefs). Burrow's passing yardage is the second-highest two-game total by one player in NFL history, trailing only Dak Prescott's 974 passing yards over a two-game span in 2020.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Arizona Cardinals

The Chiefs have won their division in six consecutive seasons, which is three more than the next longest active streak (Green Bay). Only two teams in NFL history have had longer streaks (New England - 11, 2009-2019 and LA Rams - seven, 1973-1979).

Patrick Mahomes has won 50 of his 63 career starts as Kansas City's quarterback. The only QB in the Super Bowl era to reach 50 wins in fewer career starts than Mahomes was Kenny Stabler, who earned his 50th win in his 62nd start.

Arizona scored 30 or more points in nine different games in 2022, tied for the most in a single season in team history. Since a 56-14 win over the Vikings in Week 4 of 1963, the Cardinals have gone 903 games without scoring 50 points, which is the longest streak in NFL history (Broncos, 761 straight games from 1963-2013).

Cardinals QB Kyler Murray will not want to be upstaged by Mahomes, and is the only player in NFL history to have at least 70 passing touchdowns and 20 rushing touchdowns in the first three seasons of his NFL career.

Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings

In their 22 road games against the Vikings this century, Green Bay has scored 30 or more points in 10 of them. That is tied for most 30-point games by an NFL team at a single opponent in that time with the Patriots at the Bills.

No NFL head coach has won more games over his first three NFL seasons than Matt LaFleur (39; George Seifert had 38). A win Sunday would make LaFleur the third coach in NFL history with 40 wins through 50 career games as head coach, joining Paul Brown (41) and Chuck Knox (40).

Kirk Cousins has thrown for at least 3500 yards and 25 TDs in seven consecutive seasons, the longest active streak in the NFL. He is the fifth QB in NFL history to have more than five straight, joining Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Tom Brady.

Since becoming Green Bay's starter in 2008, Aaron Rodgers has thrown 169 TDs against division opponents, compared to 25 interceptions. The Vikings have a total of 121 passing touchdowns and 73 interceptions against the NFC North in that span.

Elsewhere...

When Carolina host Cleveland, with Baker Mayfield starting for the Panthers and Myles Garrett starting for the Browns, they will become the second pair of number one overall draft picks for the same team to go on to play against one another. The others were Jeff George and Steve Emtman in 1995.

The Eagles head to the Lions, with no team targeting their receivers less frequently than Philadelphia last season (239 targets), which led to the acquisition of A.J. Brown. The fourth-year WR has scored a TD on 13.0 percent of his career catches, third-highest rate among active players (min. 150 receptions).

The New Orleans Saints will need to beware of Foye Oluokun, who led the NFL last season with 192 total tackles, becoming the first Atlanta Falcon to lead the league in that category since Jessie Tuggle in 1995 (152). Oluokun's 192 total tackles were the most in a season by an NFL player since Chris Spielman had 195 in 1994 for the Lions.

Tom Brady is back for Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a very brief retirement as they travel to the Dallas Cowboys. The 45-year-old's last two seasons mark the first time in NFL history a QB has had 40 or more TD passes and a passer rating of 100.0 or better in back-to-back seasons.

The idea of "any given Sunday" is what makes the NFL so compelling.

Any one team can beat another, and that means at this stage of the season, with the first snap still to be taken, every team can have Super Bowl aspirations.

Sort of.

The Cincinnati Bengals, for example, may have been slightly surprising contenders in 2021, but there remain some teams whose title hopes are so remote as to be non-existent.

For some, this is because they have missed their shot at glory in recent years; for others, the plan is to challenge in seasons to come.

So, this leads us to draw up a preseason tier system, ranking all 32 teams by their Super Bowl windows with the help of Stats Perform AI predictions...

Nowhere near

This is unlikely to be a season to remember for the teams grouped in this category, for a variety of reasons.

The Houston Texans won the AFC South in 2018 and 2019, but the Deshaun Watson saga and two down years have them looking at a rebuild, with the data forecasting just 4.8 wins this year. That at least ranks them ahead of the Atlanta Falcons (3.6 projected wins) and the New York Giants (4.2), while the Texans did gain draft assets in the Watson trade.

The Chicago Bears are the fourth and final team projected to earn fewer than six wins (4.9), with second-year quarterback Justin Fields receiving little help on offense and playing behind an offensive line ranked 31st in pass protection.

Meanwhile, the Washington Commanders rank 31st in terms of skill players – better only than the Falcons – with faith in Carson Wentz long since having diminished. In Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold, the Carolina Panthers have two high-draft-pick QBs unlikely to trouble the postseason. The New York Jets are in a similar boat, even if Zach Wilson is still young.

The Detroit Lions might argue they do not deserve to keep such company after a 3-3 finish to last season, but nobody could seriously argue they are title contenders.

Entering contention

If that first group was a mixed bag, so too is the second.

Anyone who has paid any attention to the New England Patriots' preseason would suggest they are very fortunate to be given any hope of success in the near future, but they finished with 10 wins in 2021 – even if that number is projected to shrink to 7.7. Despite a trade for Tyreek Hill, that still ranks the Patriots comfortably ahead of the Miami Dolphins (7.0), although the losing team in their Week 1 meeting will face a long slog of a season.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Philadelphia Eagles are forecast to have 11.9 wins – the second-most in the NFL – after a very strong offseason. But Jalen Hurts, for now, is unproven in the postseason, so Philly fans may have to stay patient.

The San Francisco 49ers are even younger at QB after promoting Trey Lance to a starting role, which explains why the prediction model looks so unfavourably on a team many consider contenders right now. Just 7.1 projected wins speaks to the potentially low floor Lance brings.

NFC West rivals the Arizona Cardinals have to be considered among this group of future hopefuls, with Kyler Murray hugely talented and now committed long term but frustratingly inconsistent, while the Jacksonville Jaguars will hope Trevor Lawrence can follow in the footsteps of the Bengals' Joe Burrow – the number one pick the year before him.

The Los Angeles Chargers, with 9.8 projected wins, have Justin Herbert to lead their charge, while the Cleveland Browns might have been contenders already if not for Watson's suspension, which is enough to limit them to a still strong 9.3-win forecast.

In their prime

The Chargers may have Herbert, but they also have three division rivals who intend to win and intend to win now. Indeed, all four AFC West teams rank in the top half of the league in terms of projected wins, with the Chargers second – behind the Kansas City Chiefs (11.5) and just ahead of the Denver Broncos (9.7) and the Las Vegas Raiders (9.2).

The Chiefs lead the AFC in this regard, although their playoff win over the Buffalo Bills last season came down to a coin flip, and the two are set to be similarly tough to separate this year. Buffalo are down for 11.1 wins.

The two teams coming off a Super Bowl run are of course prominent among the contenders, even if the model has far greater optimism for a Los Angeles Rams repeat than for another Bengals charge. The Rams are backed for a league-leading 12.4 wins and given a 15.3 per cent shot at defending their title, while the Bengals are actually projected to dip below .500 with 8.2 wins.

The Bengals' route to the Super Bowl will be complicated not just by the AFC West and the Bills but also by any return to form for the fit-again Lamar Jackson's Baltimore Ravens, who are counted among nine teams on course for 10 or more wins (10.4).

Also in that group are NFC pair the Dallas Cowboys (11.0) and the Minnesota Vikings (10.9), who may not even be the best teams in their divisions but might be nearing a point when they must seriously challenge or start again, which brings us to...

Last chance saloon

As long as Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are the QBs for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Green Bay Packers, those teams are in with a chance. The question is how long that will remain the case.

Brady is 45, briefly retired this offseason and then missed a chunk of the preseason. Rodgers is 38, has repeatedly been linked with a move away from Green Bay and lost top target Davante Adams ahead of the new season. Still, the Buccaneers rank eighth for projected wins (10.7), with the Packers up in third (11.5).

They are not the only ageing teams in the NFL, however.

The Indianapolis Colts hope they have upgraded in moving from Wentz to Matt Ryan, yet the former MVP is now 37 and last played in the postseason in 2017 – when Wentz's Eagles took the title.

Tennessee Titans QB Ryan Tannehill is a little younger at 34, but of greater concern would be Derrick Henry's durability after the injury that limited to eight games last regular season. The Titans need to make the most of any seasons they have left of the superstar running back going at full tilt.

Missed their chance

Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees won Super Bowls with the Seattle Seahawks, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New Orleans Saints respectively, but with all three having now moved on, it is difficult to see those teams plotting a path to the title.

For the Seahawks and the Steelers, this will be their first year without their stalwart QBs, even if things had already gone stale in 2021. Wilson dipped below the .500 mark for a season for the first time in his career, while Pittsburgh were attempting to stay competitive in spite of Roethlisberger rather than because of him.

Still, with both gone – Wilson to Denver and Roethlisberger to retirement – there is a void under center that has not been suitably filled. Seattle also rank 32nd in pass protection, likely leaving Geno Smith hopelessly exposed.

The Saints have had another 12 months to come to terms with Brees' exit, albeit they spent it juggling Jameis Winston, Trevor Siemian and Taysom Hill at QB. Winston's season-ending injury doomed the Saints' hopes of contention last year, and New Orleans' outlook for 9.5 wins with the entertaining but erratic former number one pick is at least far more positive than that of the Seahawks (6.2) or the Steelers (7.0).

Regardless, each of these three teams have provided an example in how not to do succession planning. They all could have won additional honours with their departed veterans and now face long waits for further title tilts.

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has finally broken his silence regarding the team’s quarterback competition.

Mitch Trubisky will be the Steelers’ starter Sunday when they open the season at the Cincinnati Bengals, Tomlin confirmed in a press conference on Tuesday, a day after Trubisky was voted one of the team’s five captains.

"We're just really comfortable with what Mitch has shown us," Tomlin said. "He's a guy that came to us with franchise quarterback experience. He's comfortable in those shoes. He's been the focal point of a football team, in the organization before. He's had success in doing so.

"Like I mentioned when we acquired him, he took the Bears to the playoffs two out of four years. He has a winning record as a starting quarterback. Those things were attractive to us.

"His athleticism and mobility were attractive to us. He took care of the football in-stadium, all our quarterbacks did."

Trubisky won the job over 2022 first-round draft pick Kenny Pickett, who was confirmed to be the number two option. Mason Rudolph, who is entering his fourth season in Pittsburgh, is listed third on the depth chart.

The number two overall pick in 2016 by the Chicago Bears, Trubisky spent last season backing up Josh Allen with the Buffalo Bills and signed a two-year, $14 million deal with the Steelers this offseason after the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger.

A little over a month after signing Trubisky, the Steelers used the number 20 overall pick on Pickett, who played at the University of Pittsburgh.

While it is no surprise to see the Steelers starting the more experience quarterback to start the season, many pundits and Steelers fans alike wonder if Pickett’s ascension is only a matter of time.

"I thought [Pickett’s} acceleration of development really took off once we stepped into stadiums," Tomlin said. "And once we started stepping into stadiums, his decision-making – the fluidity of it – his competitive spirit, his pinpoint accuracy, all of those things I thought really came to the forefront. I thought that he grew – and grew at a really fast pace once we got into stadiums.

"And I also think it's reasonable to expect that growth and development to continue as we push into the regular season."

Reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt and the Pittsburgh Steelers' number-one receiver Diontae Johnson were both forced to leave their side's 19-9 preseason win against the Detroit Lions on Sunday due to injury concerns.

Watt appeared to suffer a knee injury when he was on the receiving end of a cut-block from Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson in the second quarter. He remained in the game for the immediate aftermath, before getting pulled shortly after.

Johnson landed awkwardly on his left shoulder after pulling down a 38-yard reception from Mitch Trubisky, and after being evaluated in the medical tent, he also took no further part in the game.

Despite neither player returning to the field, head coach Mike Tomlin said there is "no long-term concern at the moment" on the broadcast, and "if this is a regular-season game, we may see them back in this game".

Watt is in the first season of his four-year, $112million contract extension, while Johnson signed a two-year extension earlier this month worth up to $39.5m.

Both of the Steelers' contenders for the starting quarterback role performed well in the win, as Trubisky completed 15-of-19 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown, while first-round draft pick Kenny Pickett went 10-for-14 for 90 yards. Neither quarterback committed a turnover.

T.J. Watt was voted the NFL's best defensive player last season but the Pittsburgh Steelers' pass-rushing demon still feels he has a long way to go before being considered the greatest player in his own family.

Speaking to former NFL linebacker Channing Crowder on The Pivot podcast, Watt said his accomplishments – which include tying a league record for sacks in a season in 2021 – still pale in comparison to those of his older brother J.J., a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year award recipient.

Though his most recent seasons have often been marred by injuries, J.J. Watt became the first player in NFL history to earn Defensive Player of the Year honours three times in a four-year span when he did so in 2012, 2014 and 2015. That feat has since been matched by Los Angeles Rams superstar Aaron Donald, whose run was ended by the younger Watt's superlative 2021 campaign in which he recorded 22.5 sacks. 

"I want people to understand how great my brother truly was in his prime," T.J. Watt said. "I think it gets lost today, and I know he'd be upset if I said this, but I think it truly is. You go back, and you look, you watch the film, the guy was frickin' unstoppable. Absolutely unstoppable.

"I think I'm too early in my career to compare myself to him at the moment, honestly."

T.J. Watt does compare favourably with his sibling in at least one important category, as his 72 career sacks are the third most in league history of any player through his first five seasons since sacks became an official statistic in 1982.

J.J. Watt ranks second on that list with 74.5, trailing only Hall of Famer Reggie White's 81.

The elder Watt, now a member of the Arizona Cardinals after spending 10 of his first 11 seasons with the Houston Texans, has recorded only one double-digit sack season since 2016 – mainly because he has had trouble staying on the field. The 33-year-old has been limited to eight games or fewer four times in that six-year stretch.

"I think people need to go back and look at that," T.J. Watt said about his brother's past dominance. "The guy was doing incredible things for four or five years, and I think he can still play at a high level."

T.J. Watt enters this season with a chance to make some history of his own after producing at least 13 sacks in each of the last four years. The only player with a streak that long since 1982 is White, who did it from 1985-88 and again from 1990-93.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.